It took me about 45 minutes on the back of a bike to decide that motorcycle touring is the most dangerous, uncomfortable, and inconvenient form of travel there is. My knees burned, my frontal lobe was being squeezed by my helmet, and I was was learning that “bad ass” is not, in fact, a compliment, but a literal term for a troubling condition that affects motorcyclists.
(Do the Hells Angels carry rash cream in their saddle bags? How do they get by without donut cushions?)
If I wasn’t so stubborn and proud, if we hadn’t spent so much time and money on the plan, I would’ve hitched a ride home on the first air-conditioned, soft-seated bus (stopping first for some baby powder at the Seven-Eleven, of course). Instead, I decided to hang in there and keep trying.
We decided to make a few adjustments to our technique to see if that helped.
- Travel in the morning before it gets hot
- Stop every hour for a break
- Travel only a short distance every day
We packed up our bags, strapped them to the bike, and set off early on a 100km journey towards a town called Sangklaburi. The journey was called: One Last Attempt To Make This Adventure Work.
The road to Sangklaburi is immaculate, spacious, and mostly free of traffic. Because of the remote location and the lack of beaches, cocktail bars, and hookers (phew!), there is very little tourism in that direction. The road ends at the Myanmar border, which can only be crossed if you’re Burmese or Thai. For everyone else, the road is a cul de sac that runs along the western side of Thailand, cutting through tangled jungles dotted with caves, rivers, and multi-tier waterfalls. Tigers can be spotted if you’re lucky.
So we set off in the early morning when the rice fields were misty with fog and coloured by dawn. I hugged tight to Ivan, spooning him for warmth as our bike flew through the chilly air.
Every so often, a scooter loaded with bags of grain or pyramids of propane tanks would overtake us. On the bike, we travel slowly and carefully because there’s simply no need to rush, and because the best accident insurance is a simple mantra: do not crash.
We passed by curled-up dogs, who, disturbed by the sound of our engine, unfurled from their sleep to rise and stretch. Thais in fisherman’s pants swept driveways and tended to steaming pots of rice. They paused, mid stir, to smile or wave or offer a thumbs up.
An hour passed by without me noticing it, and then another. The sun melted the fog, and the heat on our backs was welcomed. When the leg and butt pain set in, we’d stop for lunch and some stretching.
Taking regular breaks almost completely eliminated the butt pain. I no longer had a troubling case of bad ass. And riding in the cool morning instead of the heat of the day made the journey not only bearable, but exhilarating.
At the end of the road, we found an idyllic little town set around an enormous dam. Sangkhlaburi is remote, so I was surprised to find a place full of rustic charm, artisan sophistication, and plenty of culture. The food was amazing, too. We found a groovy little hipster café with excellent cappuccinos and fast internet, and so we stayed for 10 days.
In our cheap little wooden bungalow, we drank beer and watched the sun set over the water. I pulled out a map of Thailand and began plotting the next part of our journey.
And now, several weeks later, we’re in northern Thailand and we’ve logged around 1600km on the bike.
One Last Attempt To Make This Adventure Work saved us.